The Challenges Of Multi-tenancy

The Challenges Of Multi-tenancy

The Challenges of Multi-tenancy

Regarded as one of the most important features of cloud computing, multi-tenancy is a key common attribute of both public and private spaces. It applies to all three layers of a cloud (IaaS, PaaS and SaaS) and refers to a software architecture design in which a single instance of a software application serves multiple customers.

Multi-tenancy architecture has many benefits over multi-instance architecture. It is often cheaper to run thanks to software development costs and maintenance costs being shared, updates are faster because the provider only has to make the changes once, and it is easily scalable. Nonetheless, challenges of running software for a large number of tenants still presents problems – what are they?

Security

librato

Software providers will naturally argue that their software is protected with the highest level of security available and that a company’s data is more secure than ever on their servers. Nonetheless, there is a scope for human error, where a database administrator accidentally grants access to an unauthorized person or contravenes the security policy of an organisation.

There is also the threat of hackers – no matter how secure an encryption is it can always to broken with the right knowledge. A hacker who breaks the encryption of multitenant database will be able to steal the data of hundreds of businesses who have data stored on it.

Capacity Optimization

Database administrators need the tools and the knowledge to understand which tenant should be deployed on which network in order to maximise capacity and reduce costs. This is process is further complicated by the need to continuously align capacity with business demand and requires providers to manage the actual and forecasted resource utilization for all their servers.

Service Delivery and High Availability

When failures occur or when certain services generate abnormal loads the service delivery can be interrupted – yet business clients will often request high-availability, typically 99.999 percent. Therefore, monitoring the service delivery and its availability is critical to ensure that the service is properly delivered and meeting SLAs. Without effective monitoring problems are hard to locate and downtimes are increased – often leading to lost revenue.

Monitoring

cto

According to Librato CTO and co-founder Joseph Ruscio, “modern IT environments are incredibly dynamic and their operators require sophisticated alerting capabilities”. He believes effective monitoring can be the solution for successfully managing the ever changing IT landscape and thus many of the challenges of multi-tenancy.

Ruscio’s company, the San Francisco-based Librato, offers clients a secure, stable and resistant platform that has been optimised for time series data analytics. It allows users to see all the metrics that are required to track the health of web-scale applications and consequently enables them to quickly find the cause of unexpected patterns and events. Their software accepts both a company’s operational metrics and its other additional metrics by using a REST API, and presents all the information in a web-based application that is highly-detailed and easy-to-use.

Indeed the company has recently launched a brand new alerting platform that they hope provide a framework for industry-leading new features. Amongst other features, users can now be alerted on application-level SLAs, on when a source stops reporting and on when all data-points in a given duration exceed a threshold.

Librato is rapidly becoming one of the ‘must-haves’ of multi-tenant architecture monitoring – a view echoed by Scott Turnquest, application developer at ThoughtWorks. He says, “Librato is one of the most important live dashboards that we have running in our team room. By watching out for particular trends, we’re usually able to be proactive about issues before they affect customers”.

Turnquest’s quote undoubtedly highlights the key reason for using an effective monitoring solution – addressing problems before they reach the customer. It means less downtime, reduced costs, improved client feedback, a better reputation in the market place, and improved business prospects long term. Ultimately, a high quality cloud monitoring tool such as Librato will aid administrators of multi-tenant architecture improve its security, capacity optimisation, service delivery, and high availability by helping them to configure problem detection and to do root-cause analysis. 

What do you think are the challenges of multi-tenant architecture? What about solutions? Do you use an effective monitoring tool? Let us know in the comments below.

By Daniel Price

Post Sponsored By Librato

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Daniel Price

Daniel is a Manchester-born UK native who has abandoned cold and wet Northern Europe and currently lives on the Caribbean coast of Mexico. A former Financial Consultant, he now balances his time between writing articles for several industry-leading tech (CloudTweaks.com & MakeUseOf.com), sports, and travel sites and looking after his three dogs.
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2 Responses to The Challenges Of Multi-tenancy

  1. Although the the issues you raise are valid in certain cases, they are simply not the norm when looking at tier 1 multi-tenant service providers such as Saleforce.com, etc. Like every other sector of the IT industry, there are many smaller providers in the multi-tenant space that do not have the financial backing to offer a true enterprise class solution. Therefore, when evaluating a potential multi-tenant service it is important to be diligent in validating the infrastructure model, data management policies, security, application architecture, and overall financial strength of the service provider before moving forward.

    Before I launched a Cloud Services Brokerage (CSB) start-up 4 years ago, I spent 18 years with a several hundred million dollar regional IT services firm. During those 18 years the company’s internal IT systems were plagued with frequent downtime, performance latency, virus attacks, email spam problems, etc., and this was in spite of the fact that the company had invested millions in its systems and internal IT staff. Ironically, the company moved its internal CRM solution from Siebel to Salesforce.com back in the 2008 timeframe.

    After evaluating numerous system options for the new start-up, we ultimately implemented three multi-tenant platforms, Salesforce.com (CRM), Intacct, (Finance/Accounting), and Google Apps for Business (Productivity, mail, calendar, contacts, documents, spreadsheets, cloud storage, etc.). We have experienced essentially zero downtime, virus issues, email spam problems, etc. since implementing these platforms, and we are running our entire small business on high performance, high availability, highly integrated, enterprise class platforms that seamlessly scale with our rapid growth business. Needless to say, our total per seat annual costs for running these platforms is a small fraction of my former employer’s costs, and the level of service and reliability we have experienced is a quantum leap forward. Are service disruptions possible? Yes. Could one or more of these platforms could get hacked? Certainly. Regardless, the robust capabilities of these service providers has greatly enhanced the reliability, security, redundancy, functionality, scalability, disaster recovery to a level far beyond what we could have afforded in an on-premise solution. I am also confident that, in the event of a disruption or catastrophic event, these providers are far better equipped (and motivated) to quickly remedy any issue that may arise than the great majority of businesses on the planet.